NASCAR may be digging themselves a deeper hole

If NASCAR penalizes William Byron for Sunday’s incident with Denny Hamlin, they will only be digging themselves a bigger hole.

Moments after the yellow flag came out for Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. adding his name to the long list of leaders who wrecked out of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway with a flat tire, Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron sent Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin for a spin through the infield.

Byron was expressing his displeasure with Hamlin running him out of room on the exit of turn two of the four-turn, 1.5-mile (2.414-kilometer) Fort Worth, Texas oval just a few laps earlier.

After the race, Byron claimed that the contact itself was intentional, but the spin was not. He ended up finishing in seventh place and now sits in third in the standings, 17 points above the round of 8 cut line, with one of the three round of 12 races in the books. Hamlin had to settle for 10th and sits in sixth, eight points above the cut line.

Byron was not penalized for the contact, and Hamlin was not allowed to retain his position. Why? Because apparently NASCAR totally missed it.

However, NASCAR isn’t ruling out issuing a penalty to Byron after the fact, possibly in the form of a points deduction.

But aside from the obvious blurred line between what’s acceptable and what isn’t when it comes to contact under caution, NASCAR would effectively now be penalizing Byron for their own ignorance and digging themselves an even deeper hole after an already disastrous race.

Yes, Byron is the one responsible for his own action, but NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller himself admitted that had NASCAR been paying attention to what was going on (which just seems totally unbelievable to even have to say), Byron either would have been sent to the rear, or Hamlin would have been allowed to retain his position.

Now we’re talking about possibly docking Byron points after the fact, potentially affecting the playoff picture?

Had Byron simply been sent to the back, he may still have finished with fewer points than he did. Maybe he finishes lower than seventh place, maybe he doesn’t. We’ll never know.

But at least under that scenario, NASCAR wouldn’t have been asleep at the wheel and then making up for it several days later.

And one more thing to note: while the incidents themselves aren’t comparable, we also saw a situation take place earlier this year in which a clear violation was committed by a driver and NASCAR totally ignored it and took no action afterward. This violation was much more clear-cut, whereas the Byron/Hamlin feud does contain an element of subjectivity.

A penalty on Byron, while perhaps justified on Sunday, would illustrate inconsistency at its finest if issued now, especially if he is docked points. Plus, given how inconsistent NASCAR has been, it’s challenging to make the argument that they’d be setting much of a precedent by docking him points. At most, a monetary fine should be what NASCAR considers.